Pro Tips for Installing a Ceiling Fan Angies List

Pro Tips for Installing a Ceiling Fan Angies List

Pro tips for installing a ceiling fan

Ceiling fans should run clockwise in winter to push the warm air down and counterclockwise in summer to push cool air down. (Photo courtesy of Angie’s List member Russ S. of Carmel, Ind.)

Ceiling fans have long drawn the ire of interior decorators on home improvement television shows, but the reality is they are a practical energy-saving resource in most residential applications.

The key to maximizing the energy efficiency of a paddle fan is to know which direction its blades should be rotating in each season. Ceiling fans should run clockwise in winter to push the warm air down and counterclockwise in summer to push cool air down.

“The nice part about having a ceiling fan is the effect of the constant movement of air throughout your living space,” says Brian Ashpaugh of Ashpaugh Electric, Inc. in Westfield, Ind. “It makes the air much healthier and can also reduce your air conditioning and heating costs, because with the movement of air the room can actually be warmer (or cooler) than it feels. You’re able to get more value for your money.”

Ceiling fans have improved in both appearance and functionality in recent years, no longer making them the eyesore they’ve been reputed to be.

“With a high-end line, you’re going to get design with flowing lines and (blend) color or designs into the décor of the room,” Ashpaugh says. “There are also some very good accessories you can get now in a paddle fan, like automatic reversal, where the fan can be auto reversed from either the remote control or wall mount switch. You can also get infinite-speed control with them. They’ll go from almost zero up to 100, so you can vary the speed to where you like it. They’re much more programmable now to where they used to be. Now, you have very nice options, especially on sun porches or three-season porches. They make paddle fans now that actually have a heating element inside them, so they heat the area when you’re in the area and can shut off when you’re not.”

If there’s a misperception amongst homeowners, it’s that installing a ceiling fan is a simple, do-it-yourself project. In addition to the dangers of dealing with electrical components, the installation must be in accordance with specific guidelines established by the National Electrical Code. Improper installation could affect the fan’s operation, lead to a hazardous electrical issue or other safety concern. A common issue with do-it-yourself installations is the fan not being connected properly to a ceiling box, which can prevent a fan from falling from the ceiling, should it come loose.

“I would suggest that only a licensed, bonded and insured electrician come out to install a ceiling fan,” says Bruce Dowdy of Dowdy Electric Co. in Indianapolis. “It’s a much bigger job than what it looks like. You want to make sure you’ve got the polarity correct and that it has the correct ceiling box to hold the weight of the fan. There are a lot of factors that you look at. It’s not just a matter of taking out a box and sticking it up there.”

Pro Tips for Installing a Ceiling Fan Angies List

Ceiling fan sizes range both in diameter and length, so it’s important to size the fan correctly to properly match the size of the room and the distance from the ceiling to the floor, so it doesn’t hang too low.

“The best advice is call (a licensed electrician) and we’ll talk to them about the dimensions of the room, cubic feet and that kind of thing,” Dowdy says. “That helps us determine the exact size ceiling fan they need for that particular room, whether it be a bedroom, family room or a vaulted ceiling in an entryway.”

Ceiling fans can range drastically in price from less than $100 to more than $1,000 based on their features, size and the materials they’re made from. A less expensive fan will likely vibrate or wobble easier than a higher end model.

“It’s been my experience that if you go with a higher quality fan, even though it may cost more, you’re going to get a better fan in the long run,“ Dowdy says. “Generally, when we get called to fix something, the fan may not be working or it’s wobbly. When you assemble a fan, you have to balance it. Once you install it, there may even be more balancing involved because it comes with counterweights that you put on the blades. We see a lot of wobbly fans out there and we see a lot of fans installed on regular light boxes in the ceiling, which are not intended to hold the weight of the fan.”

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in May of 2012.


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